Not long ago I called a friend of mine to ask him if he considered himself a man. Of course he has the necessary anatomy but, I’m thinking here about the idea of a man rather than biology. What constitutes a “man” today? What phases does a person pass through before he’s considered a “man”? These types of questions. Unfortunately, this friend, like most of my friends (and my parents), refuses to answer my phone calls. So I took to the stacks to see if I could find out what makes the “modern man” a man.
The best book I found was Robert Bly’s Iron John: A Book About Men. Bly spends some time discussing the evolution of the modern man but he’s mostly concerned with helping dilemma of the “soft male” of the 1990s. Bly explains:
“In the seventies I began to see all over the country a phenomenon that we might call the 'soft male.' Sometimes even today when I look out at an audience, perhaps half the young males are what I’d call soft. They’re lovely, valuable people--I like them--they’re not interested in harming the earth or starting wars. There’s a gentle attitude toward life in their whole being and style of living.” (2-3)
Bly goes on to explain that he’s noticed a deep sadness to these men. Mr. Bly argues today’s men have been raised (neutered?) by overbearing women who’ve denied their sons access to their inner-Wildman. I won’t ruin the ending, but if you’re a man, and want the mysteries of life revealed to you, come in to MLC and check out Bly’s book.
As for the original question: what makes a man? I guess I’ll go back to my personal oracle of manhood: Doctor Heathcliff Huxtable. In all my years of watching the Cosby Show I’ve never questioned that Dr. Huxtable was manhood personified.
Bly, Robert. Iron John: A Book About Men. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.